Shaping the future: Our strategy for research and innovation in humanitarian response.

A global organisation that finds solutions to complex humanitarian problems through research and innovation..
Our purpose is clear: we work in partnership with a global community of humanitarian actors, researchers and innovators to improve the quality of humanitarian action and deliver better outcomes for people affected by crises.
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What do we mean by locally-led innovation?

Locally-led innovation is about individuals, communities, local and national organisations developing innovative solutions to locally defined problems.  

For the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF), this means providing funding and non-financial support to innovators from local and national organisations to develop new solutions to humanitarian challenges. It centres around working with, and learning from, partners to build sustainable systems of support in different places.  

Our approach to locally-led innovation borrows from the Peace Direct definition of locally-led development: it refers to initiatives owned and led by people in their own context (Peace Direct, 2020).  

(Banner photo: a farmer in Giritirto adds sawdust into the organic fertilizer mix as part of HIF-funded local innovation project ‘Climate Adaptive Farming in Drought Prone Areas’).

Members of the Maps&Cards for disaster risk reduction team (based in the Philippines). Credit: Eric S. Sister/Philippine Geographical Society.

Our Approach

We collaborate with partners to develop locally-rooted networks and hubs for humanitarian innovation management that support the emergence and development of locally-driven solutions to humanitarian problems, identified by people affected by crisis. 

Through our locally-led initiatives, we provide financial and non-financial support for innovation, including the resourcing of time and space for reflective inquiry, access to appropriate finance for solution development and scaling, facilitation of partnerships and networking opportunities, and other forms of technical and non-technical assistance.  

The Asian Disaster Reduction & Response Network (ADRRN) is a network of national civil society organisations across the Asia-Pacific region.  Its main aims have been to promote coordination, information sharing and collaboration among CSOs and other stakeholders for effective and efficient disaster reduction and response in the Asia-Pacific region.

La Asociación de Servicios Comunitarios de Salud (ASECSA, on behalf of the Start Network Guatemala Hub), is an association of over 48 community-based organisations in Guatemala fighting for rural, indigenous health access since 1978.

Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP) works with non-government organisations, people’s organisations, communities, and government agencies at all levels in the Philippines to enhance their capacities in disaster prevention and mitigation, preparedness, emergency response, and rehabilitation and recovery.

Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society (SEEDS) is a not-for profit organisation that enables community resilience through practical solutions in the areas of disaster readiness, response and rehabilitation.

Start Network is a global network of non-governmental organisations, made up of more than 50 national and international aid agencies from five continents. Its mission is to create a new era of humanitarian action that will save even more lives through innovation, fast funding, early action, and localisation.

YAKKUM Emergency Unit (YEU), Indonesia, works to build community resilience through community-led disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. YEU has a mandate to deliver inclusive emergency response, with a focus on community participation in needs assessment and relief distribution.

We are supporting two locally-led innovation methodologies:  

  • awarding direct grants to local and national organisations through ringfenced funding calls in particular countries, with coordination and non-financial support carried out and provided in collaboration with in-country partners; and  
  • supporting locally-led innovation ‘labs’ in particular countries, with financial and non-financial support provided entirely via in-country partners, through the Community-Led Innovation Partnership (CLIP). 

Drawing from all the experiences at different levels, we share learning and seek to inform practice at the global level, so that collectively we can champion a more localised approach to humanitarian innovation. 

Examples of projects we have funded include: the Philippine Geographical Society and the Prodjx Artist Community’s Disaster Risk and Reduction planning for people with disabilities through particiapatory mapping and gamification; Aga Khan Agency for Habitat India’s Early Warning System for Flood Management in Vasi-Virar, Mumbai; and DepEd Makati standardised contingency plans for post-earthquake student-parent reunification. You can read about more of our projects below. 

Follow along the CLIP’s journey to develop locally-led labs HERE 

Projects funded under this partnership

Why locally-led innovation?

We recognise that our portfolio of funded innovations reflects the wider bias in the humanitarian sector where funding is mainly allocated to larger, international organisations, likely to be located in the ‘Global North’. Through our focus on locally-led innovation, we are working to address this imbalance, and ‘localise’ our funding and support. 

As such, this work is connected to the localisation agenda which is focused on recognising, respecting and strengthening the leadership of local and national actors (OECD, 2017), so they are better engaged in the planning, delivery and accountability of humanitarian response (ICVA-HLA, 2019) in order to address the needs of people affected by crises. 

We believe the central role of local and national actors in ensuring the relevance, effectiveness and immediacy of humanitarian response necessitates their leadership in innovation efforts. For local and national organisations to take on a larger role within the humanitarian system, they must be given the operational space and funding to develop their own innovative programmes.  

Set within the sector’s movement toward decolonising aid, we believe our approach offers a pathway towards shifting power and practicing anti-racism – while supporting the creation of more contextually appropriate and ultimately more impactful and sustainable solutions. 

Related Tools and Research


Blog: The role of community-led innovation in decolonising aid

Report Partnerships

Partnerships Review: Humanitarian Innovation Fund

Article Innovation Management, Partnerships

Exploring a strategic partnership to support local innovation

Video Disaster Risk Reduction

What does innovation mean to you?

Video Disaster Risk Reduction

What does localisation mean to you?

Video Disaster Risk Reduction

How should international organisations better support localisation?

Video Disaster Risk Reduction

What role do local, national and regional organisations play in localisation?

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